Our October Book Club Book Report!
Our ten Comic-Con Graphic Novel Book Clubs welcomed in what passes for fall in the greater San Diego area with another stellar selection of graphic novel for discussion!
The Chula Vista group’s October selection was A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel Vol. 1, by Daniel Abraham and Tommy Patterson. An adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy novel, the graphic novel begins with members of the Night’s Watch tracking a band of wildlings. They are subsequently attacked by cold, undead creatures and some are turned to become the same type of creature. The scene then shifts to focus on the Stark family, where Lord Eddard Stark executes a deserter of the Night’s Watch. As the book continues, it soon becomes apparent that this story is not quite a straight fantasy. It’s a novel about power, who wields it and who wants it. Assassinations, treachery, and nefarious schemes accompany magic, dragon eggs, and direwolves.
Most of the book club members familiar with the TV series and/or the books were eager to discuss how this adaptation compared to both the HBO adaptation and the original novels. Monique led the discussion and it was a spirited one. Stephannie commented that keeping track of the large amount of characters in the story kept her engaged. Both Monique and Eric noted that the characters were true to the descriptions in the novel, particularly Tyrion. Yasmine appreciated the clean art and found the story enjoyable. Matt agreed and felt that this was a “solid book.” Jenna was excited to see a story told a different way, after reading the novel and watching the television adaptation. Chris thought this was a terrific version and looks forward to reading Vol. 2.
For November, the Chula Vista Book Club will be discussing Farmhand: Reap What Was Sown Vol. 1 by Rob Guillory and Taylor Wells.
Downtown tackled the great escape known as Mister Miracle, by writer Tom King and artist Mitch Gerads, alongside cover artist Nick Derington. King’s re-imagining of Jack Kirby’s “Fourth World” escape artist hero one all kinds of acclaim and awards when it first came out. Wrapped up in a story that includes a war against Apokolips, King’s tale is one of family, mental health, and the ultimate escape: beating death itself.
Moderator Erik “prescribed” pill vials filled with M&Ms for our deep discussion into this ground-breaking graphic novel. Mitch Gerads’ art was universally hailed by our members as a 10 out of 10, technically flawless in how it made the story flow. Confined at times to the classic comics page 9-panel grid, the art contributed to the story’s theme of mental health, supposedly based on King’s own experience (according to an introduction in the Barnes & Noble version of the book). Ultimately, Scott Free and Big Barda—deemed one of our favorite comic book couples by members of the group—show that the love of family is the ultimate escape from depression.
Oh, and Darkseid Is. Just sayin’.
Next month, the Downtown group tackles Abbott by Saladin Ahmed, Sami Kivela, and Jason Wordie
Though not necessarily a Halloween-themed book, the Encinitas Library discussed Batman: Hush by Jeph Loeb, Jim Lee, and Scott Williams, and it was just “spooky” enough to be a great pick for October. When all of Gotham City’s villains seem to be even more dangerous than usual by behaving in new and different ways, it becomes apparent that some mysterious individual is responsible for orchestrating this targeted assault on Batman. After suffering a traumatic brain injury, Batman needs to be on-guard more than ever, which makes it all the more surprising and treacherous that he considers making himself vulnerable by opening his heart (and identity!) to long-time nemesis Catwoman. Bill handled moderation duties, and the group used a tried-and-true Comic-Con Book Club technique to facilitate the discussion: The Question Bag! Book Club members took turns pulling random questions from the bag and answering them, with everyone else chiming in to share their thoughts. While some of the questions dealt with lighter topics like what everyone’s favorite Bat-gadgets were, others delved into deeper issues, such as trust and identity. Jon noted, “Is it Batman who is Bruce Wayne, or Bruce Wayne who is Batman?” and that by opening himself up to Catwoman, was “Batman is trying to find himself.” The group agreed that Loeb’s story does a solid job of setting up great situations, though with the parade of Gotham City’s most famous villains, Richard joked that it’s almost as if Loeb “threw so many characters in just to see Jim Lee draw them.” Indeed, Lee’s artwork was the star of Batman: Hush for every member of the Encinitas group, with James stating it was “amazing, you can almost feel the movement.” Brittany echoed his sentiment, saying she “got lost in the pages looking at the detail.” In particular, everyone loved the amount of care Jim Lee put into detailing the bottom of Batman’s boot! Special appreciation goes to Scott Williams (inker) and Alex Sinclair (colorist) for helping bring Lee’s incredible artwork to life. Batman: Hush was a perfect selection to kick off the Halloween season, and served to solidify everyone’s belief that not only is Batman is deep and intriguing character, but Jim Lee’s artwork does a superb job of bringing the Batman universe to life.
Next month the group will be discussing Assassin Nation Vol. 1 by Kyle Starks and Erica Henderson.
The Escondido1 group's October selection was American Vampire vol. 1, written by Scott Snyder and illustrated by Rafael Albuquerque.
Set in 1920s Los Angeles, the book follows Pearl, a young woman working as an extra on movie sets with her friend. When she is violently turned into a vampire, it leads her to seek revenge against the European vampires that savagely abused and tortured her. Additionally, the story takes us to a time in the Wild West where we learn more about the protagonist Skinner Sweet, referred to as the original American Vampire, who is stronger and faster than any other vampire to exist before him. Our group, lead by Sarah, found this title to be very gripping and controversial as the protagonist isn’t someone you normally find yourself rooting for. The art was as great as the story and far from the cliché of red-filled pages of other vampire comics.
Each page, although filled with action, was easy to follow, and memorable. Our group rated this comic high in our internal rating system of thumbs, and made fans of us all.
In November, the Escondido 1 Book Club will be discussing Monstress vol. 1 by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda.
The Escondido 2 group's October selection was Watchmen by Alan Moore and David Gibbons. To borrow the description from the publisher: "In an alternate world where the mere presence of American superheroes changed history, the US won the Vietnam War, Nixon is still president, and the cold war is in full effect! Watchmen begins as a murder-mystery, but soon unfolds into a planet-altering conspiracy. As the resolution comes to a head, the unlikely group of reunited heroes--Rorschach, Nite Owl, Silk Spectre, Dr. Manhattan and Ozymandias--have to test the limits of their convictions and ask themselves where the true line is between good and evil." Kitty lead a lively group discussion. All members gave the book high ratings for the story, artwork, character development, and hard questions it asked. Group discussion lead down paths of psychology, mental health, the timeliness of the story, heroes/villains, justifications for actions, and so much more. There was a lively debate if Rorschach was a hero, villain, or anti-hero. Watchmen is a graphic novel that needs to be read multiple times to truly appreciate the depth and the message it is delivering. There is so much to unpack that multiple meetings may be required! Escondido 2 wonders how you'd answer the question: "Who watches the Watchmen?" In the groups opinion: the public.
In November, the Escondido 2 Book Club will be discussing Paper Girls Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang.
For October, La Jolla read The Immortal Hulk vol. 1: Or Is He Both? by Ewing Bennett and Jose Mounts and The Boys vol. 2: Get Some by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson. Mike, our moderator, started off this month’s discussion with the Hulk. We all really enjoyed how this version of Hulk was intelligent, and working in a vigilante type style. Also how he traveled from city to city, which was like the original TV show. As a group we always enjoy the continuity that the Marvel Universe brings to its storytelling. We are all looking forward to continuing on to Vol. 2.
Next up we jumped right in to our discussion of The Boys vol.2. We are all still really enjoying this twist on the superhero world. This volume took us to other superheroes from volume 1. We also learned more about Hewie and Butcher and how that group works. We had a lively discussion about comparisons to Batman and Robin. The group also watched the TV show and we spent some time discussing it compared to the books and how we all look forward to continuing with both the show and the books.
In November, La Jolla will be reading Rogue and Gambit: Ring of Fire by Kelly Thompson and Pere Perez, and Black Hammer vol. 3: Age of Doom, Part One by Jeff Lemire, Dean Ormston, and Dave Stewart.
Mission Valley’s October book selection was the graphic memoir Passing for Human by Liana Finck. A unique book, it was enjoyed by the members in different ways, depending on where they were physically and mentally when they read it. Passing for Human is a reflection on the past, on family, on personhood, and what it means to be human. From struggling through potty training, to holding down multiple jobs, to studying for exams, each member of the Mission Valley group brought a unique perspective about the book and also what it means to be human. One thing everyone agreed on was the relatability of the manifestation of the author’s fears into rat-like creatures that whisper in her ear. Everyone suffers from self-doubt and gnawing voices and seeing it drawn out like that made it relatable in a new way. Reading this book together reminded everyone of the fact that though we are all so different, we can come together and discuss something that binds us all.
Next up for Mission Valley will be The Vision by Tom King, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, and Jordie Bellaire.
In October, the Museum Charter Member Book Club read The Vision, vols. 1 and 2 by Tom King, Gabriel Hernandez Walta, Jordie Bellaire, and Clayton Cowles. Moderator Tommy, who also nominated the book, started the evening by asking the group to share specific panels and dialogue they enjoyed. One panel highlighted was of the Vision communicating with his wife Virginia about domestic matters while battling a super villain. The group brought up more than once their appreciation of how King made the effort to tie in and call back various elements presented at the beginning of the story through all 12 issues. The group then discussed whether or not being familiar with the Vision and Marvel Comics had affected their experience reading the books. Some realized that while the overall history and interactions of some of the characters may have been lost on them, the overall strength of the story carried them through much of those moments.
The conversation then moved onto a discussion about one of the themes of the book: What it means to be human or being different and learning to integrate within those structures and societies and the issues that some people face when trying to integrate.
The book was universally enjoyed by the entire club even when members didn't entirely agree on the intent or actions of the characters.
Up next, the Museum Charter Member Book Club is reading Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughn and Pia Guerra.
North Park’s October comic selection was cartoonist Tillie Walden’s recently published webcomic turned physical graphic novel On a Sunbeam. Prepared with creator interview quotes and thought-provoking questions, Cody led a spirited discussion about this coming-of-age story that takes place in languid fish-shaped spaceships and boarding schools with views of Earth. On a Sunbeam is the story of a recent boarding school graduate, Mia, who joins a building restoration crew as they travel from floating structure to floating structure. Her adventure with the crew is mirrored by a story of her first love at the school before the two stories intertwine for an exciting conclusion.
Everyone enjoyed Sunbeam, though some members felt they wouldn’t like it when they started reading. However, as they continued reading they began to connect with the characters and the art. By the end, everyone liked it much more than they were expecting. Walden uses bright colors, a welcome contrast to somewhat monochromatic space settings the members were used to seeing. They also appreciated that the story takes place in a world without men. Every character is either a woman or non-binary, which was a welcome change of pace to most sci-fi stories filled with an over-abundance of male characters. It was one example of the many ways Walden subverted the usual sci-fi tropes, including her concerted effort not to explain the science of the story, and using more curved and organic art to tell a story set in space.
Next month North Park will be finishing up our deep dive into Vaughan and Staples’ Saga, reading volumes 7-9.